Joan of Arc: Pivotal Throughout the History of Cinema

Her Story Is Linked to Evolution of Film, Cardinal Poupard Says

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ROME, DEC. 9, 2001 ( The evolution of the cinema seems to be linked to treatment of Joan of Arc in film, over the years, a Vatican official says.

Cardinal Paul Poupard, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, offered his review of cinematic history in the light of this French heroine.

He shared his ideas during the presentation of a book on the saint and the movies, written by Paola Dalla Torre («Giovanna d´Arco Nella Celluloide. Riflessioni sull´ Età del Cinema»).

The presentation at the St.-Louis-of-the-French cultural center in Rome took place during the ongoing «Tertio Millennio» Festival of Spiritual Cinema.

The French cardinal said that Joan of Arc has influenced film directors since the days of silent movies.

This influence is due, perhaps, to the fact that «Joan represents and perfectly incarnates the paradox» of a brief but extraordinarily intense life of events that were seemingly contradictory, he said.

«She is child and soldier, saint and patriot, devout and brutally condemned as a heretic,» Cardinal Poupard noted. Hence, she is «modern,» given her «ambivalence, her multifaceted nature,» as is the nature of the cinema itself, he added.

The story of the young maiden of Orleans has been portrayed seven times in film — from George Hatot´s 1898 «L´Execution de Jeanne d´Arc,» to Luc Besson´s 1999 «Joan of Arc.»

«Not to mention the two unsurpassable masterpieces — the 1949 film of Victor Fleming and that of Robert Bresson of 1962, which I especially appreciate,» the cardinal added.

The ardent virgin, encased in armor, and rebelling against the social restrictions of her time, has enabled the cinema to discover itself while recounting her unique life, he continued.

Indeed, through Dalla Torre´s book, it is possible to understand how the saint´s life story has been «the perfect mirror» through which the cinema has awakened itself and stays awake.

The sacred is a constant, perhaps the only constant, in the history of the cinema, the cardinal added.

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